The British government is making a strong focus on understanding dementia. This is a most important move because, as the elderly live longer and will make up a larger percentage of populations, we need to understand how dementia works. Of course the area of work that will be most supported financially by governments are likely to be the pharmaceutical industry, but those of us who think in other ways can also attempt to make our contribution. So, from the perspective of the psychopathology of trauma developed by Franz Ruppert, I am going to put my own views on this topic.
From the perspective of Ruppert’s theories of trauma, dementia is easy to understand. Since trauma causes the psyche to split off the trauma experience and, from the moment of the traumatic event on, to maintain this split, this causes a tension in the body:
“The split psychological structure is held in place by muscular contraction in the body, and over a prolonged period of time this contraction exhausts the physical reserves.” (Broughton, 2013, ch 8.9)
As we get older we naturally have less energy and strength, and a person who has held a psychological split for most of their life, or even all of their life in the case of a symbiotic trauma, has always had this extra call on their energy and strength. Quite simply they are likely to become exhausted with the stress of holding the unresolved trauma unconscious.
This exhaustion then means that the survival strategies employed are likely to fail, and one solution to this failure of suppression of the trauma experience is dementia, as a major form of dissociation and absenting from the painful experience of the unresolved trauma.
The simple physical failure of the hundreds of constricted muscles and ligaments in the attempt to hold the unresolved trauma out of consciousness may be the underlying trigger for elderly dementia. What may also happen is that under cover of the dementia the person may have the freedom to enact actions that they have suppressed for years. This may account for episodes of violence and other behaviours sometimes found in the demented.
Even in younger people we often hear from clients’ accounts of their family history of family members who succumbed to craziness, schizophrenia, bi-polar etc. in the face of the tortuous reality of being a member of a traumatised bonding system. Where reality and truth are frankly denied there is likely at some point to follow a retreat into some form of craziness.
If our medical professions and psychiatric professions understood trauma in this way, we might address the issue rather than only falling back on managing dementia.